Dealer Chat Tips

While online chat as we know it closes in on its 25th birthday in just a couple of years—Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was launched in 1988—only a small segment of auto dealers have placed a live chat option on their websites. Despite the longstanding availability of the technology, research site www.DealerChatMarketShare.comtells us that only 17 percent of dealers presently used online chat as of July, 2011.


So what is stopping the other 83 percent from adding live chat? It certainly isn’t a lack of consumer demand for it. Neilson Researchtells us that in 2008, text messages exceeded phone calls placedfor the first time in history. By 2010, there were 30 percent more text messages made than phone calls. Given that consumers have clearly expressed a preference for chat over phone calls, it would seem an obvious move for a dealership to embrace live chat. Still 83 percent of dealers have yet to make that move.


There are a number of possible reasons for this. There is the ongoing debate between choosing a fully outsourced chat answering service versus having your staff directly answering the chat requests. There is the concern regarding the potential costs involved to both launch and support chat. And there is the fear that dealership staff might not embrace chat as a viable sales channel, won’t log in, and won’t take the time to learn how to get the most out of chat.


No one is suggesting that these are not legitimate concerns. In an effort to address these issues, better educate dealership staff on chat best practices and offer tips and tricks to help your staff gain a competitive advantage, dealer chat vendor, Contact At Once! has partnered with Dealer Marketing Magazine to produce is intended to be a resource for those seeking advice on how to best answer in-bound chat requests. It covers some basic concepts like avoiding the use of ALL CAPS in responses (it is considered yelling) to more advanced topics, like being present at the ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth). Whatever the interest, there is a wealth of rich content freely available to all.


The site isn’t just geared towards those who have already embraced a chat solution; indeed, there is a host of information and video tutorialswhich can help to shine a light on the full value of chat leads for your dealership or group. Recently the site featured an item about leveraging the power of social media and tying that into your online marketing efforts. Other topics covered included being available to consumers when they have questions, and how that can build the rapport which leads to appointments and sales.


While it is a bit trite to say that there is something for everyone on, the goal was to create a resource that both helps dealers gain the most from their chat investments, while also helping others understand the opportunities available to them by leveraging chat on their sites.

Bill Sengstacken is director of marketing at dealer chat provider, Contact At Once! For more information, email





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